Tennessee has its new athletic director, hiring UCF’s Danny White to the same position on Rocky Top less than a week after the university announced that Phillip Fulmer would be retiring once his successor was named.
White is just one piece of the puzzle that needed to be figured out. The Vols are also in need of a head football coach after Jeremy Pruitt was fired with cause following three seasons in charge. Now, White is tasked with the responsibility of finding a new head football coach, a task he has been wildly successful at doing during his career as an athletic director.
White likes to keep things close to the vest. There’s a good chance that who he ends up hiring is completely out of left field. Here, we take a look at coaches that could be considered given White’s connections and desire to hire an offensive-minded head coach.
Our hot board is divided into three different categories. We have the “realistic options,” those who are “worthy of a call,” and the “long-shots.” Here is our extensive list of Tennessee’s potential head coaching candidates.
Clemson Offensive Coordinator Tony Elliott
Elliott has turned down several job offers in recent years as one of the most instrumental pieces of Clemson football’s run under Dabo Swinney. He’s even received interest from the NFL, including this offseason from the Miami Dolphins. Could Tennessee be the one that finally pulls him away? Maybe. There is believed to be interest from Elliott’s camp in regards to the possibility.
The Clemson OC lacks coaching experience, but those around college football believe he’s done everything possible to be ready for a head coaching gig. Elliott played wide receiver at Clemson from 2000-2003 before beginning his coaching career. The 41-year old has spent all 15 of his years coaching in the state of South Carolina with stops at South Carolina State, Furman and now his alma mater, where he has worked in some capacity on the offensive staff since 2011. He won the Broyles Award in 2017, presented to the top assistant coach in college football.
Buffalo head coach Lance Leipold
Leipold is on the list because of his connection to White, who hired him in 2015 just before White took the athletic director job at Central Florida. Leipold has been successful at Buffalo after going 109-6 at Wisconsin-Whitewater, a Division III school. Buffalo went 13-23 in his first three years on the job, but Leipold has guided them to a 24-10 record over the last three seasons, which includes a 10-win season and three consecutive bowl appearances.
Time will tell if Leipold is strongly considered for the job, but he must be viewed as a realistic option simply because of his ties to White.
Louisiana head coach Billy Napier
In our first hot board that we posted, we indicated that “it would be a stunning development” if Napier were to have interest in the Tennessee job. Simply because he has stayed put with the Ragin’ Cajuns, passing on Arkansas, Mississippi State, Ole Miss and South Carolina the last two coaching cycles in an effort to hold out only for a sure thing. The Vols are still far from a sure thing, but the addition of White as AD would surely give Napier more reason for optimism.
Tennessee should kick the tires on Napier. He’s done a tremendous job at Louisiana and there could be some interest on his part given he is from down the road in Cookeville. Napier is 21-4 in his past two seasons, which includes a win over an eventual top-1o Iowa State on the road.
Coastal Carolina head coach Jamey Chadwell
An intriguing option who currently has interest in the job is Coastal Carolina head coach Jamey Chadwell. He’s a Tennessee native who played quarterback at East Tennessee State in the 90’s and generated quite the buzz this past season by guiding the Chanticleers to an 11-1 record after going 3-9 in his first season three years ago.
Tennessee desperately needs to improve on offense and develop a quarterback quickly. Chadwell is capable of doing so with his quirky offensive system that typically features two backs in the backfield. He’s yet to hold a job in any capacity at a Power 5 program.
Go to the next page to see which candidates are worthy of a phone call.